So who is this new love? Well, she's fifty years old in a couple of weeks' time. She's a vision in shiny black metal, shiny chrome, and red leather. She's the most beautiful, curvy thing I've ever seen. She's a 1953 Series II Morris Minor, and she's mine, all mine.
We went out to Haverhill on Saturday to pick her up -- I'd been looking forward to it all week, but when it actually came to driving her away I was terrified. The car is so utterly different from anything I've ever driven before... it's a whole new world. Major differences that I can see/feel:
- No seatbelts. Okay, this doesn't affect the way the car handles or anything, but after 25 years of seatbelt-wearing, that "clunk-click" is pretty firmly ingrained, and it's very strange driving without it.
- The gears. Oh, dear god, the gears. She's only got 4 gears; and the gear-stick is long and, well, flappy. There's no indication of where each gear is, you just have to feel for them -- and sometimes they're pretty elusive. Reverse gear is apparently not even in the same set of dimensions as the rest of the gears, requiring a bizarre lift-and-shift-and-think-it-into-place manoeuvre which only works 8 times out of 10.
- The brakes. I don't know if it's the difference between drum brakes and disc brakes, or just that she's a bit old and worn, but I'm having to seriously readjust my braking distance. Don't get me wrong, the brakes work, they're just a lot softer than I'm used to.
- Starting the car. Turn ignition key, pull starter. Remember how choke works. Get confused about why turning key doesn't start the car. :-) In an emergency, I have a starter-handle for her, which should at least provide entertainment for passers-by watching me trying to start the car...
- The indicators: she doesn't have any. Instead, she has trafficators, so I have to remember to switch the indicator off after each turn or lane-change, otherwise the little flag just stays out. This is taking a lot of getting used to...
- The mirrors. She doesn't have any wing-mirrors, though to be honest the all-round visibility is so good that I think I'll get used to that pretty fast. The rear-view mirror, though, is tiny -- it's not a huge problem (and a bigger rear-view wouldn't be much help as the rear windscreen is tiny too!) but it's a bit disorientating.
- The speed. Apparently her top speed is 62mph, but I don't think I managed to get her above 50 (though I was carrying a passenger...) and that was only when going downhill! She was definitely straining to get uphill, and doing a hill start was ... entertaining.
The drive back from Haverhill, trying to accustom myself to all this newness, was the most terrifying thing I've ever voluntarily done. Most of the journey back (with a long-suffering daneel_olivaw as passenger, and following a very patient sion_a -- who kept nipping into laybys etc. to wait for us!) was spent muttering to the car ("Come on, good car, you can make it, it's only a little hill...") or yelling at her ("Argh! Where the fuck is third gear?!"). By the time we got within Cambridge city, I was changing gears (mostly) without mangling the synchromesh, and driving a bit more confidently, but I was shaking by the time I eventually got out of the car at home (having even managed to drive her in through our gate, which is quite a performance at the best of times).
Driving her is strangely addictive, though, and I couldn't resist taking the car to lnr and ewx's party that same day -- not just to show her off, but because I genuinely wanted to drive her again. Unfortunately when I came to switch the lights on the front left headlamp bulb died, but given that all the streets on the way over there were well-lit I drove it anyway with sidelights and one headlamp. This obviously isn't a long-term solution, though, and a new bulb is one of the first things on the (increasingly long) shopping list.
The drive into work this morning was mostly fine, apart from the fog (which just meant that everybody else was driving slowly as well!) and a couple of annoying "Come on, there's a gear in here somewhere" moments.
There are, of course, a number of things that need fixing, tweaking, checking, and so on:
- The steering drags very slightly to the left. This is the only potentially-really-serious problem that the car seems to have, and it's certainly not something I think I can fix on my own.
- If I want to run the car on unleaded petrol (and I do), I'm going to have to pay something in the region of £150 to get a new cylinder head, with hardened valve seats and stems. To be honest, even ignoring the important environmental issues, it's worth paying that just so I don't have to drive to Wisbech (the only place in Cambs with a garage that sells actual leaded petrol) every time I want to fill up.
- Seatbelts. Legally the car isn't required to have them, because of its age. I don't want to destroy the authenticity of the car, but at the same time I don't want to die. I'm going to ask somebody who knows what they're doing how much (if anything) they'll knock the value of the car, and weigh up the pros and cons (and the cost!). I certainly don't feel comfortable not having a seatbelt at the moment, and I'm not sure it's something I want to get comfortable with -- mind you, it's nice to be able to tell the people who call me a "cager" that actually I don't have shedloads of safety features (though I'd drive just as carefully if I did have them).
- The speedometer doesn't work, which is annoying -- there's very little chance of me being able to exceed the speed limit, but I prefer to know what speed I'm doing. Hopefully it's just a loose connection somewhere though, and if it isn't, I should be able to get a new (well, old/reconditioned) one without too much difficulty/expense.
- There are a couple of bits of rust that need looking at sooner rather than later. Neither looks seriously bad at the moment, but prevention is better than cure.
- The driver's door is hanging a bit low; closes fine but spoils the line a bit. The hinges all seem solid so hopefully it's just a question of adjusting rather than replacing.
Now for the silly stuff. This car clearly needs a name. :-) I've put some photos of her on my website so that you can see what she looks like. Basically I'd like a name that's cute but not naff; preferably not too out-of-place for a 1950s girl; not too prim and proper but also not too showy; I feel she should really have an English name since she's a very English car; and she can't be called Felicity (as that's the name of the Morris Minor belonging to the chairwoman of the Cambridge Morris Minor Owners Club, and I don't want to tread on any toes). People have already made some suggestions so I've included those, but don't feel limited by them -- I'm open to suggestions.
(By the way, she really needs a name before her 50th birthday [11/3/03]. And yes, I intend to have a party for her, and yes, I know what I'm getting her for her birthday. :-)
Okay, so what should I call her?
Reason (if any) for your choice:
Other silly stuff: I want a nodding badger to sit in the back windscreen. If anybody has a nodding dog that they're willing to part with so that I can customise it accordingly (as I don't think nodding badgers exist!) then please let me know. :)